It is very much to the credit of the young art museum at Brigham Young University that they are publishing such fine catalogues that not only enhance the Museum's large collection, but serve to fill voids in the compendium of art literature. This superb catalogue, edited by Marian Wardle, gives evidence of the vision of Campbell B. Gray, the Director of the Museum: his presence is palpable and promises a strong commitment to the art world.
Aptly subtitled 'The Legacy of Robert Henri, 1910 - 1945' this collection of works by women artists reflects the emphasis of the great teacher on the modernist perceptions of his pupils. The names of the artists sadly are not household names, but after reading and viewing this fine book it is embarassing to admit that fact. This is not an overview of 'lesser art' championing a feminist movement: this is an investigation into the art of women artists whose work is informed by their state of being women with all the powerful inferences that suggests.
Wisely, this catalogue is lead by essays written by contemporary women in the arts. Editor Wardle introduces the précis in 'Thoroughly Modern: The "New Women" Art Students of Robert Henri'; Sarah Burns offers 'fabricating the Modern: Women in Design'; Helen Langa writes 'American Women Printmakers: Adventurous Choices, Modernist Innovations'; Betsy Fahlman essays 'The Art Spirit in the Classroom: Educating the Modern Woman Artist'; Erika Doss offers 'Complicating Modernism: Issues of Liberation and Constraint among the Women Art Students of Robert Henri'; Gwendolyn Owens contributes 'Hidden Histories: Robert Henri's Female Students and the Market for American Art'; and finally Lois Palken Rudnick concludes the book with 'Modernizing Women: The New Woman and American Modernism'.
A broad spectrum of information, this: an even broader exposure to the visuals about which they write!
The photographs, which accompany the texts in appropriate places, create a sense of history that will be difficult to match in other books about this interesting subject. But the overwhelming part of the book is the art itself. These are paintings and prints of astonishingly fine quality, works that vie equally with those of men artists from this period. The reader makes refreshing discoveries on almost every page to the point of putting the Brigham Young University Art Museum on the travel itinerary for art lovers. And as with any exceptional, scholarly book there is a complete 'Artists' Biographies' section at the back of the book, a very fine compilation by Stephanie Andrews McNairy. This is an historically important, aesthetically rewarding book that deserves a large audience. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, January 06